Saturday, March 7, 2015

No Punchline

Jeff Suwak is featured in a few anthologies and is the author of the novella: Beyond the Tempest Gate. He's done it all from writing, editing, to being an Army Ranger, and competing in full contact kickboxing. One of his favorite writers happens to be one of my all time favorite authors as well: Jack London. Today, I'm going to be covering his short story: No Punchline: Or, The Night Chale Thayer Blew his Head off at the Punch Drunk Comedy Club. (Yeah, that mouthful.)

Ebook copy

We cannot envision the glory of God, but we know exactly what our demons look like. 
Today, comedian Chale Thayer is going to kill himself onstage in front of all his fans. He has given up all hope that there is any greater purpose to life and is giving God, the universe, or whatever else might be out there one last chance to prove him wrong.

He will tempt fate at the end of a gun barrel, and only time will tell who gets the last laugh.


I enjoyed this little short for many reasons. I will start with the blunt and quick delivery. This story does not waste time introducing the world and giving it an air of a gritty, cut throat atmosphere. And anyone that knows me knows that I love anything noir. No words are wasted and everything has meaning. Right off the bet you get hit with this piece of information:
"A comedian is someone who doesn't think that anything in the world is funny, not a single damn thing, so he's got to joke about it all or else he'll kill himself."
Chale Thayer is tired. He's tired of it all. And it shows with everything he utters. Sure, there is good about the world. The people who he cares about and that in turn care about him, but mostly the world is an ugly place with ugly people and he can't shake that feeling off.
"Takes a sicker man than me to laugh at the world we live in."
He has decided to take a gun to the comedy club and off himself. No spoiler here. The title already tells you that. Along the way he makes a few quick pit stops to visit some of the people who have meant a great deal to him. The seedy city he lives in and the common folks are all portrayed very well and are a few of the reasons this story is entertaining. They all offer their own kind of wisdom. Often times, people have a way of being insightful even when they're not trying to be.

Chale is not a failed comedian. He actually reminded me of the late George Carlin. His dry humor is more fact based than haha funny. He is an up and comer who refuses to be bought and sold. He refuses to sell out. He refuses to be made into a hero:
"If you feel the need to coronate people as heroes, go find a nurse or a shelter volunteer, and coronate them." 
True words right there. He just wants to understand the point of it all. His worth. His contribution to  society. How unfair it all is. The mystery of himself. He raises a lot of questions that we as individuals face at points in our lives. Yes, Chale can be quite cynical. But life has given him enough reasons to come to his conclusions. He was an interestingly insightful character, frustrated, yes, but through his lenses it all comes together. It makes sense.

I won't reveal more than I have or the ending. A lot of it is left to interpretation. And so, here's mine: The joke is not just on Chale but on the reader as well. There is a plot expectation and the story mounts and ebbs and leads up to the expected climax and so when the end is nigh, I also laugh.

No Punchline is a good story to check out. Its well worth the time.

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